Local volunteers honored by Beltrami County for work during the pandemic
May 4, 2021 was proclaimed as COVID-19 Volunteer Appreciation Day by the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners Tuesday. The proclamation was read by Board Chair Reed Olson. County officials also heard a report on the past year from Greater Bemidji Economic Development.
BEMIDJI -- The Beltrami County Board of Commissioners honored volunteers who continued to work hard for the community over the past year during the coronavirus pandemic, during a board meeting on Tuesday, May 4.
A proclamation, read by Board Chair Reed Olson, noted how Beltrami County relied heavily on citizen volunteers to provide assistance and leadership in response to the public health crisis. According to the proclamation, thousands of hours of time was put in by volunteers in 2020 and the first months of 2021.
Those hours put in are valued at $100,000. The proclamation honored that work by making May 4, 2021, COVID-19 Volunteer Appreciation Day.
The day comes just a few weeks after National Volunteer Week was celebrated from April 18-24.
"The work to restore our communities and safeguard our fellow residents by these kind, charitable and skilled community volunteers is significant and profound and should be recognized, appreciated and celebrated," the proclamation read.
In reading the document, Olson said "we say thank you and we applaud and celebrate their kindness and compassion. We are grateful to these men and women who have given their time and shared their talents."
Earlier in Tuesday's meeting, the board heard a presentation from Greater Bemidji Economic Development Executive Director Dave Hengel. During his time at the podium, Hengel went over several of the initiatives and efforts by the organization in the past year.
According to his presentation, Greater Bemidji compiled the following data:
- The value of building permits in the area for the region was $46 million, up 17% from the previous year.
- The labor force was down by 222, or 0.9%.
- There were 610 fewer jobs in the region, down 2.5%.
- The unemployment rate for the area was at 5.9%, up from 4.3% in 2019.
Hengel also shared the following Greater Bemidji activities in response to the pandemic:
- Administered $1.3 million to 35 businesses from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development loan program.
- Helped create the Gifts of Hope program , which provided gift cards from 158 local businesses to area residents. The cards had a $455,000 economic impact.
- Established the Greater Bemidji Hometown grant relief program, providing $500,000 to 71 businesses.
- Administered $900,000 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding to 104 Beltrami County businesses.
In addition to those efforts, Hengel noted the ongoing push for legislation to assist the company NorthStar Pellets. The company intends to build a wood pellet plant near Bemidji and is seeking state support to ship its products to port.
The board also approved a proposed policy Tuesday to provide compensatory coverage for county workers who were required to quarantine. The estimated cost is $7,500 and the intention is for the county to leverage Federal American Rescue Plan funds to cover the expenses.